Over the last few months, various high-profile members of the UK have spoken of the need to support the engineering industry through educational reforms and investment. However, Dik Morling, chair of the admissions working group at the Engineering Professors' Council, warned that an insufficient amount is being done on a governmental level to safeguard the long-term future of the industry.
Professor Morling cited recent research showing that, despite the rise in vacancies across much of the engineering sector, enthusiasm for the subject among university students is on the wane. Indeed, many of the most critical engineering courses are being forced to close due to a reluctance to pursue the subject in higher education. He speculated that postgraduate provision is the area most likely to be affected by recent developments.
A quarter of the institutions questioned as part of the study said that domestic and EU postgraduate numbers fell by more than ten percent, while nearly a third confirmed that enrolment on taught postgraduate courses by non-EU students has dropped by more than ten percent.
Professor Morling also observed that certain areas of the engineering sector have been hit harder by this alarming trend than others. "By 2020, there will be many fewer departments in certain branches of engineering," he told the Times Educational Supplement. "Civil engineering was hit very badly in the 1990s and many courses were closed in that decade. It seems there is now a very long downturn in electrical engineering, computer science and production engineering."
He added: "Mainstream engineering will probably survive, but we now risk losing small postgraduate courses in narrow research areas, which produce people who are key to the technology sector."
This view has been echoed by Clive Neal-Sturgess, emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Birmingham, who warned that those engineering departments that have seen a fall in postgraduate numbers could face a bleak future. "Engineering is a high-cost subject and the majority of UK departments are dependent on overseas student income to balance the books," Professor Neal-Sturgess explained. "If these courses start to disappear, what does that mean for UK competitiveness?"
Do you think more should be done at a governmental level to ensure that more talented young people pursue a career in engineering?